Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Intellectual Property and Protection Notions

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Intellectual Property and Protection Notions

Article excerpt

Are you aware that your small business may be able to protect its business trade name from misuse by others?

Can you and should you use "TM," for trademark, for your product or service? When can you use the "R" in the circle?

In our small business podcast series, "Been There, Done That!," I interviewed local patent attorney and licensed engineer Joseph Long in his area of expertise. Here are some excerpts.

Q:What are the different types of intellectual property?

A:There are four basic types: copyright, trademark, patents and trade secrets.

Copyrights are rights and original works and creative expressions held by their creator. Ideas and discoveries aren't generally protected by copyrights, but the way in which they are expressed may be.

Trademarks are names or designs that identify a product or a service as being from a particular provider; examples might be McDonald's or Ford Mustang.

Patents protect ideas or inventions. The rights are held by the inventor, and the rights are to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing the invention.

Trade secrets are generally confidential information controlled by the owner for their benefit. A popular example is the formula for Coca Cola.

Q:How should a business protect its copyright interests?

A:A work is protected under copyright the moment that it's created and fixed in a tangible form. Examples of tangible work may be drawings, physical models, graphic designs, written text, photographs, videos, or computer code. In general, registration of copyrights is completely voluntary; however, you have to register your copyright with the government if you wish to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

Generally, only the author or creator of a work has a rightful claim to its copyright. An important exception to this is a notion of works made for hire. When a work is made for hire, an employer is considered the author, even if an employee actually created the work.

Employment, contractor agreements, or contracts, generally including explicit agreement that works created as part of a work for hire are the rights of the employer. A business should seek to retain the copyrights to all materials generated in relation to its products or services through such agreements.

Q:How should a business protect its trademarks?

A:Rights in a mark can be established simply based on using the mark in commerce without having to register it. However, like copyrights, federal trademark registration can provide numerous legal advantages.

When you merely claim the rights to a mark, you can mark it with a symbol "TM," often applied as a superscript. This is a designation to put the public on notice or to alert the public that one is claiming ownership of the mark.

Regardless of whether you'd ever file an application, you can use this TM designation. …

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